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2023 is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded

The human-caused climate crisis continues to be driven to new extremes by the continued burning of fossil fuels

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Thursday 05 October 2023 13:12 BST
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Related: Nasa visualisation shows increase in Earth’s surface temperature over time

2023 is on track to be the hottest year in human history.

The announcement, from European scientists on Thursday, was hardly suprising after record-breaking heat this summer in the northern hemisphere, and an off-the-charts September.

“This extreme month has pushed 2023 into the dubious honour of first place - on track to be the warmest year and around 1.4 [degrees Celsius] above preindustrial average temperatures,” Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in a statement.

“Two months out from Cop28 – the sense of urgency for ambitious climate action has never been more critical.”

C3S reached the conclusion based on computer-generated analyses using billions of measurements from satellites, ships, aircraft and weather stations around the world.

Among the key findings:

  • September 2023 was the warmest September on record globally with an average air temperature of 16.38C - nearly 1C hotter than the average between 1991 and 2020. Last month was also half a degree hotter than the temperature of the previous hottest September in 2020.
  • From January to September 2023, the average global temperature was 1.4C higher than in 1850-1900, when some countries began to ramp up the burning of oil, gas and coal.
  • Ocean temperatures hit 20.92C in September, the highest on record for that month, and the second highest ever after August 2023.
  • Antarctic sea ice remained at a record low level for the time of year.
Globally averaged surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1991–2020 for each September from 1940 to 2023 (C3S/ECMWF)

Behind the record heat is the human-caused climate crisis which continues to be driven to new extremes by the continued burning of fossil fuels.

Temperatures are also being amplified this year by the emergence of a natural climatic pattern, El Nino.

The record-breaking September temperature comes after the hottest August and hottest July, with the latter being the hottest month ever recorded.

“September was, in my professional opinion as a climate scientist, absolutely gobsmackingly bananas,” said Zeke Hausfather, at the Berkeley Earth climate data project.

The increase in global heat is manifesting in extreme weather events worldwide. Southern Europe, North Africa, North America and Asia have faced relentless heatwaves since late spring.

More heat supercharges storms and has led to powerful hurricanes and deadly rains across the world. In Derna, Libya, thousands of people were killed after rainfall and flooding triggered the collapse of two crumbling dams and washed a third of the city into the sea in September. Intense, erratic rainfall has also led to deadly flash flooding in India, China, South Korea, Brazil, Chile and US Northeast.

Wildfires have exploded across Greece, Italy, Croatia and Algeria. In Canada, there has been 6,500 wildfires this year so far, destroying more than 71,000 square miles - an area twice the size of Portugal.

Australia experienced its driest September on record adding to a growing list of places battling drought.

In the Horn of Africa and South America, these conditions are pushing tens of millions more people into extreme hunger.

A disaster has been declared in southern Louisiana, around the city of New Orleans, after threats to the drinking water supply due to a massive intrusion of salt water into the dwindling Mississippi River.

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